Oh you have a dream? You should pay a lot of money for that dream and maybe at the end of a lot of debt you’ll be better at that dream.

Annie Clark on education at Berklee College of Music. Another take in an earlier interview:

At some point you have to learn all you can and then forget everything that you learned in order to actually start making music.

I think a lot of people, if they’re not careful, can err on the side of the quantifiable and approach it like an athlete. Run that little bit faster, do that little bit more and think you’re being more successful. But the truth is that a lot of times it’s not necessarily about merely being the best athlete, it’s about attempting a new sport.

In which teenage Ben Franklin improves his writing by imitation

When I was reading this New Atlantis article on self-help, I found mention of Ben Franklin’s ingenious plan for becoming a better writer: imitation, summary, repeated practice. He set up lessons for himself, varying ways of copying from The Spectator

  1. One method was picking an essay, summarizing every sentence with a brief “hint”, setting those summaries aside for a while, and then trying to recreate the essays from his own notes. Then he’d compare to the original and see where he came up short.
  2. Sometimes he’d put these hints on separate sheets, jumble them all up, and set them aside for a few weeks. Then he’d try to re-order them and re-write the essay, and compare his with the original.
  3. To work on his vocabulary, he transformed the prose stories into poetry, waited a while so the memory was no longer fresh, and then turned them back into prose again.

Dang. Who has time for all that? Basically everyone with discipline: “My time for these exercises and for reading was at night, after work or before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading as much as I could the common attendance on public worship…”

He did this while still a teenager working at the printing shop. Here’s how Franklin tells it in his autobiography:

My father happened to find my [letters] and read them. Without entering into the discussion, he took occasion to talk to me about the manner of my writing; observed that, though I had the advantage of my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I ow’d to the printing-house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. I saw the justice of his remark, and thence grew more attentive to the manner in writing, and determined to endeavor at improvement.

About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try’d to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method or the language, and this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious. My time for these exercises and for reading was at night, after work or before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading as much as I could the common attendance on public worship which my father used to exact on me when I was under his care, and which indeed I still thought a duty, though I could not, as it seemed to me, afford time to practise it.

What a badass.

Leveling the field: What I learned from for-profit education—By Christopher R. Beha (Harper’s Magazine)

This is a fascinating funny/sad inside look at for-profit education. [$]

The first chapter of our textbook, Your College Experience, was entitled “Exploring Your Purpose for Attending College,” and that’s where we would begin. It seemed strange to me that a credit-bearing college course should be dedicated to telling students why they should go to college, but the entire first-year sequence turns out to be an almost surreal riff on the socialization process of higher education, where secondary characteristics of college graduates become the actual subjects of the courses.

Leveling the field: What I learned from for-profit education—By Christopher R. Beha (Harper’s Magazine)

The Enchiridion by Epictetus – The Internet Classics Archive

Probably going to go on a Stoicism bender pretty soon.

There is great danger in immediately throwing out what you have not digested. And, if anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have begun your business. For sheep don’t throw up the grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; but, inwardly digesting their food, they outwardly produce wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you likewise not show theorems to the unlearned, but the actions produced by them after they have been digested.

The Enchiridion by Epictetus – The Internet Classics Archive

You can tell if it’s your own plan by how lost you feel. People who do their own plans feel lost most of the time. People who do other peoples’ plans feel on track most of the time.

Confessions of a Prep School College Counselor – Magazine – The Atlantic

Certainly, I understood why students who had worked so hard and done so well would want to go to schools like Harvard and Princeton, but many places seem to be prestigious simply because student fads and crazes have made them hard to get into. Brazenly capitalizing on the whims and passions of teenagers seems a questionable practice for institutions dedicated, in part, to the well-being of young people.

Confessions of a Prep School College Counselor – Magazine – The Atlantic

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits – NYTimes.com

Learn in different locations. Mixing related skills in one study session makes them easier to learn. Spread your study sessions and testing/reviews over time for best retention. Highly-focused immersion is not always better than a more eclectic approach. I think the overarching theme here is that making it easier for yourself isn’t always the wisest thing. If you give the brain some variety it will do remarkable job of pulling things together.

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits – NYTimes.com

Adam Phillips on the happiness myth | Books | The Guardian

Happiness and the right to pursue it are sometimes wildly unrealistic as ideals; and, because wildly unrealistic, unconsciously self-destructive.

Interesting essay with some good tidbits. This bit on pathologies could also apply, more mildly, to how we react to differing opinions:

We tend to pathologise the forms of happiness we cannot bear.

And on education:

There are, for example, only two reasons for children to go to school – apart, that is, from acquiring the werewithal to earn a living: to make friends, and to see if they can find something of absorbing interest to themselves.

Adam Phillips on the happiness myth | Books | The Guardian